"I wish they would only take me as I am" - Vincent Van Gogh               "How Can I believe in God when just last week I got my tounge caught in the roller of an electric typewriter?" - Woody Allen              "Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake" - Henry David Thoreau              "I took a speed reading course and read 'War and Peace' in twenty minutes. It involves Russia" - Woody Allen            "When promulgating esoteric cogitations, eschew platitudinous ponderosities" - Mark Rowan, my father            "Up, sluggard, and waste not life, for in the grave there will be sleep enough" - Benjamin Franklin             "What really interests me is whether God had any choice in the creation of the world." - Albert Einstein            "Welfare's purpose should be to eliminate, as far as possible, the need for its own existence" - Ronald Reagan            "It's odd that you can get so anesthetized by your own pain or your own problem that you don't quite fully share the hell of someone close to you." - Lady Bird Johnson              "I still want to be the candidate for guys with confederate flags in their pickup truck" - Howard Dean

Monday, January 29, 2007

Corn, Alcohol, and Hillary

Two thoughts for the evening. First comes from this article, discussing Senator Clinton's doublespeak about Ethanol. It's not surprising that Hillary is singing a new tune in order to appeal to Iowans. I've never considered her a person of strong convictions (moral convictions, that is), and I don't think there's much she wouldn't do to get a vote. I anticipate that until November 2008 there will be a lot of pandering like this. But it does raise an interesting issue, that of Ethanol. As a chemistry major, I know that the combustion of Ethanol produces more carbon dioxide--the primary accused culprit of global warming--than gasoline, per unit of energy output. Thus, an Ethanol economy would have a more detrimental effect. However, I do support Ethanol development. That is because ethanol, like Hydrogen, can be used in fuel cells, and could thus provide a bridge from a Gasoline economy to a more sustainable Hydrogen economy.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Obama and Universal Health Care

One of the primary complaints leveled agains Barack Obama is that his stance on the issues is somewhat unknown. Today he announced that he supports Universal Health Care, an issue I adamantly oppose (as does much of the country). Likely he will make this issue the core of his 2008 presidential bid, providing me a sure reason to oppose him.
Obama said while plans are offered in every campaign season with "much fanfare and promise," they collapse under the weight of Washington politics, leaving citizens to struggle with the skyrocketing costs.

As opposed to leaving the government with the skyrocketing costs. Bear in mind that under goverment control, administration expenses would almost certainly increase, meaning taxation would be greater than current health care expenditures.

It boggles my mind that while Universal Health Coverage has and continues to fail so miserably in Canada and elsewhere, Democrats continue to push it with such fervor.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Minimum wage opposition

The recent House of Representatives blunder of increasing the minimum wage has fortunately hit an obstacle in the Senate. I'm happy to say that the opposition is not only from Republicans, but significantly from Democrats such as Harry Reid (D-NV). Despite passing easily in the house, as one of the "first 100 hours" initiatives that Democrats promised, Senate Democrats are refusing to pass it without an accompanying tax break for those who employ low-wage workers.

While I'm glad that this bill is currently in trouble, I think it is for the wrong reason. The minimum wage is the worst thing for the poor, according to Milton Friedman. It promotes inflation, which negates itself and hurts those earning more than the minimum wage. I think other initiatives would provide a more sound benefit, such as employer credits for each new employee over the next 5 years (which would promote the creation of new jobs), or simply instituting a tax break without meddling with the minimum wage...Allow the free-market and the invisible hand to set the wage, not bureaucrats in Washinton.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Recent Readings

I've had a lot to talk about recently, but not a lot of time to do so. But, right now I am making time to write about two books I recently read, and would strongly recommend to anyone else interested.

The Cure: How Capitalism can save American Health Care was a great read for anyone interested in the American Health care crisis. I am an avid opponent of socialized or single-payer health care for numerous reasons. I am often called stingy, greedy, selfish, or uncompassionate about my stance. However, I feel that strides should be made to empower the uninsured, rather than entitle them. The Cure takes a similar stance, and demonstrates through careful analyses how Health Savings Accounts would be one of the solutions to making health care more affordable. In summary, a free-market system would reduce costs, enabling those who currently can't afford to purchase insurance. In addition, the book debunks several myths about health care. These myths include facts and figures about the number of uninsured, the quality of care in socialized systems, and worries about Health Savings Accounts.

I also read Who Really Cares by Arthur Brooks. It is a breakdown of the factors that seem to contribute towards who is charitable and who is not. I was skeptical that it would be written with a heavily partisan attitude, but it was nothing of the sort. In fact, the author admits that he was surprised by his own results, but their consistency made him change his opinion. So, what were those results? That conservatives are more charitable than liberals, the religious more charitable than the non religious, and most surprisingly, those who favor a forced income distribution are far stingier than those who believe in the free market! Brooks presents his conclusions with data, and controls for differences in other factors (such as age, income, race, gender, etc...). What I found most interesting is the discussion of causality. Brooks' analysis concludes that not only does an increasing income also increase charitable giving, but charitable giving leads to an increased income! Perhaps its Karma at work.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Is this really charity?

My wife recently made an interesting comment about the television show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition". She said that it bothered her that they made such lavish homes, when they could have built several regular homes, thus helping more people. Anyone who has seen the show would agree, though I suppose building standard homes wouldn't pull in the ratings.

I have the same sentiment after reading this article about Oprah's new school. It is a $40 Million dollar school for girls in South Africa, designed to help those from "deprived backgrounds". So, how much education does $40,000,000 buy? Well, it boasts 28 buildings, lying on 52 acres, and has the finest equipment, a laboratory, theatre, and 'is said to resemble a luxury hotel.' However, it will apparently be used to educate only 152 girls!

For those of you without a calculator handy, that $40 million works out to over $260,000 per student! The class was selected from 3,500 applicants; $40,000,000 spread amongst that number would be over $11,000, which is comparable to US education costs, and thus, should be enough to provide a solid education for all of the applicants. According to the article, "Oprah said she decided to build her own school because she was tired of charity from a distance." Thus, the decision to only help a small number of lottery winners is, apparently, due to Oprah's close involvement. Anyone without an ego or image to worry about likely would have chosen to help a greater number of people. Yet, Oprah chose to be grandiose.
Mandela was invited to be among the dignitaries at the opening of the lavish Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in the small town of Henley-on-Klip, south of Johannesburg, as well as a string of international celebrities -- though the guest list was kept secret.

With a grand opening that boasts a celebrity guest list, I would hardly consider this charity. It would appear that will serve more to enhance Oprah's image and ego than it will to educate the children of South Africa.